Agbit Incubator is celebrating successes and milestones achieved through the agribusiness incubation model that has, in the last four years, registered unprecedented growth in farmers’ horticultural products which include vegetables and fruits. Subsequently, incomes have increased as a result of increased production resulting from adopting technologies emanating from agricultural research.
The AGBIT Incubator located in Zambia is one of the six incubators set up through the UniBRAIN programme and it deals with horticulture crops and fruit value chains. Recently, the UniBRAIN steering committee visited the incubator to familiarize with the activities on site where farmers were being taken through on site incubation. The incubator incubates cluster groups of farmers who are in horticulture, dealing with vegetables and fruits. This initiative ensures farmers are trained on how to propagate seedlings using the AMIRAN farmers’ kit technology and it has had profound results.
From the success story, incubatees are now able to register a higher rate of seedlings propagation and success which are of high quality and have guaranteed them consistent returns. As a farmer, David one of the incubatees remarked, “I am now able to have seedlings germination success rate of 95%-98% while previously the best would be 70%”. David was elated to note that this technology has endeared him to many farmers who now rely on him to supply vegetable and fruit seedlings within his cluster and beyond. This, he said, has enabled him more than triple his income from $300 monthly to about $1200 from sales of seedlings and vegetables.
The farmers have been introduced to greenhouse farming where pests and weeds have been controlled and top notch seed varieties provided. This has helped boost production for farmers; guaranteed consistent production and the quality of products has opened up new high end markets which give premium prices. The climate smart technologies not only guarantee efficient use of water but also conserve the environment while producing all year round.
Paul, one of the farmers at the programme, indicated that, “…with the greenhouse farming, I am able to produce all-round the year, market is not a problem and there is need to empower more farmers to be able to acquire these technologies”. He however indicated that the initial cost of setting out the green houses was very high and as such out of reach to most farmers in the clusters. He does however hope that this issue can be addressed by the programme through linkage to relevant financial service providers. Agbit is exploring financing options and has started offering seed capital to farmers to address this concern. The incubator has also improvised a cheaper version of the greenhouse that is giving similar results and the incubatees now express satisfaction with the initiative.
Besides supporting farmers at production level, Agbit also has incubatees producing other agro inputs and products such as organic fertilizers, value addition to tomatoes, fruits and chilli, drying of traditional vegetables, production of energy drinks from sorghum maize and millet among other interventions. These activities have helped prolong the shelf life of farmers’ products and created the potential for the products to penetrate markets far and wide. Agbit has been instrumental in ensuring that these value adding activities are adopted and scaled to ensure farmers gain optimal benefits from their efforts.
It is worth noting that in Zambia’s Agbit incubator, the programme has till date, facilitated the engagement of over 4,500 farmers who are directly and indirectly benefiting in terms of improved livelihoods by playing varied roles along the commodity value chains. In addition,seven technologies have been adopted and have tremendously helped farmers and other value chain actors increase their incomes through enhanced productivity and more than 1,500 jobs have been created through the programme in Zambia. Besides, universities and other tertiary institutions have been engaged in developing industry driven agribusiness curriculum that is meant to churn out market ready and employable graduates. This curricula has so far been adopted by three tertiary institutions training agribusiness courses in Zambia while some are using it to customize the already existing curricula.
During the just concluded UniBRAIN Steering Committee Meeting held in Zambia on 24th June 2015 under the auspices of Agbit, a FARA UniBRAIN supported incubator, the review team engaged by DANIDA expressed their elation with successes that the programme had registered against the laid out objectives.
Noting that there was still room to do more, the team indicated that the programme results were impressive noting that the business model needed to be nurtured and sustained in perpetuity. It was further noted that with more technical support the incubators were on a growth trajectory that would see them run profitably as envisaged in the business incubation model adopted by the programme.